Goodbye to Tolerance

By Denise Levertov 1923–1997 Denise Levertov
Genial poets, pink-faced   
earnest wits—
you have given the world   
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.   
Goodbye, goodbye,
                            I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,   
neutral fellows, seers of every side.   
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,   
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped   
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never   
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
forever
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,   
your loaves grow moldy,   
a gulf has split
                     the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving   
behind you the cherished   
worms of your dispassion,   
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,   
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? ... then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle   
for joy ...

Denise Levertov, “Goodbye to Tolerance” from Poems 1972-1982. Copyright © 1975 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: The Freeing of the Dust (New Directions, 1975)

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Poet Denise Levertov 1923–1997

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Social Commentaries

Occasions Farewells & Good Luck

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Denise  Levertov

Biography

During the course of a prolific career, Denise Levertov created a highly regarded body of poetry that reflects her beliefs as an artist and a humanist. Her work embraces a wide variety of genres and themes, including nature lyrics, love poems, protest poetry, and poetry inspired by her faith in God. "Dignity, reverence, and strength are words that come to mind as one gropes to characterize . . . one of America's most respected . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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